I left school with no qualifications and a criminal record. And my family’s saying, “How did you get a job in a bank?!” But it was the values that Harmeny gave me – they stuck with me long after I’d left. I was all bad behaviour. But I knew… this is wrong; this is right.
From Day One the support and attention I got at Harmeny was a million times more than at home. I had arrived there from a troubled background – my parents were separated and my grandparents couldn’t cope with me. I knew I was troublesome at the time – I think it was because of a lack of attention. I’d be sent to my room or out to play – I could be out from eight in the morning til when the street lights came on at night.
There was one member of staff in particular, Andy. He got me playing football. I was into outdoor activities and sport and won so many medals. I remember so much football, cycling, running – and, in the summer, trips to Oban and the big outdoors. We’d take the big caravan. Some would sleep inside; others, outside in a tepee. And we’d go down to the lake at night and see who could stay in the longest.
I wasn’t perfect but I was being trusted by adults to play independently with others and to be a responsible member of a group. They arranged for me to have swimming training at Wester Hailes swimming pool. I’d be driven there but then walk back on my own. I even got the opportunity to have lessons from Olympic medallist, David Wilkie, one summer. At the end of the three weeks he challenged me to a race – which I won!
When I was 13 I left Harmeny and this transition was hard. I quickly got in with the wrong crowd and didn’t cope with secondary school. I was out fighting all the time, smashing car windows, taking advantage of grandparents. I left school after a year and then left home and went off the rails – I spent the next six years on a downward spiral and did a lot of things I’m not proud of. I got to know the police station well.
But even then I knew. . . I was all bad behaviour, but I still knew what I was doing was wrong. I had that sense of right and wrong that I’d got at Harmeny. Andy especially had been firm but fair. If you’d done something wrong, he let you know. And when I met my wife, she was a saving grace. I worked long shifts with British Pipe Coaters in Leith, then went to college to study computing.
I can see huge benefits of the Appeal for the children coming to Harmeny now. I think caring for young people beyond 14 is a great idea and will help further their development and transition to adulthood. Transitioning from the supportive network of Harmeny will never be easy but I hope, with the new facilities and skills project, it will be easier now than it was for me.
Even at the worst times, I remembered Harmeny’s values and they’ve helped make me who I am today, with my family – and working in a bank!